In The Middle

By Sherry — another rainy day in Northern Virginia

Marci Konecny is the winner of the Sarah Winston books! Thanks to all of you who stopped by! I used to draw the winner.

Usually no one wants to be in the middle, but I am and here is why I’m so happy to be.

Tagged for Death mech.inddThe second anniversary of the release of Tagged For Death was last Friday, December 2nd (look for the celebratory giveaway at the bottom of the post). And this anniversary made me reflect on where I’ve been, where am, and where I’m going. I started thinking about all of the people who helped me along the way – too many to list here but I do want to mention some pivotal moments.

My first writers conference run by the Cambria Writers Workshop was in Monterey, California where I received gentle criticism and lots of encouragement.

I also attended the now defunct Seaside Writers Conference run by the faculty of the Florida International University’s creative writing department. I learned so much about structure and passion for writing. Plus I met some wonderful local writers.

You meet the nicest people at Malice. Here I’m with Dru Ann Love, Aimee Hix, Shari Randall, and Kathryn O’Sullivan

Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland was life changing in so many ways. (I gave them a shout out in the acknowledgements of Tagged For Death.) I also made a lot of friends there and met Julie Hennrikus who told me about the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime and Crime Bake and of course became my dear, dear friend.

When I joined the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crimes Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette), and Hank Phillippi Ryan were the head honchos of the chapter. They are all amazingly generous to me and so many other writers.

Crime Bake gave me a chance to meet authors, agents (lots of rejections), and pre-published friends.

seascapeSeacape run by Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib, and S.W. Hubbard (the year I attended). Never has so much learning and opportunity been packed into less than forty-eight hours. But even more important were the friendships that were formed. I met Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, Barbara Ross, and Kim Gray that weekend – Wicked Cozy Authors wasn’t even a twinkle in our eye then. I also met Ramona DeFelice Long, and Christine Hillman who is from Australia – both are amazing women and writers.

Then of course there’s Barbara Ross who thought of me when agent John Talbot asked her if she knew anyone who could write a series about garage sales.

Photo by Meg Manion Silliker

And there are my dear Wickeds. What would I do without all of you?!

When I moved back to Virginia I joined the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime and found another group of people who encourage and support me in so many ways.

I’m also very grateful to so many friends, readers, bloggers, and reviewers who are with me on this journey.

So with all this talk of the past why did I title the post “In The Middle”? I realized I get to help other writers now. It is so much fun! And I have had such gracious examples of how to do that from people who have helped me in the past and continue to help me now.

There are so many ways to help other writers. Sometimes it’s reading a manuscript and making suggestions. Or it’s saying to someone my agent is looking for someone to write a series. It could be an introduction, just an encouraging word, writing a blurb for someone, or telling people to join Sisters in Crime.

A few weeks ago I did a panel on getting published with Maya Corrigan and Kathryn O’Sullivan at the Barnes and Noble in Fairfax, VA. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd. We ended up talking to a man for quite a while after the panel and encouraged him to join Sisters in Crime.

Photo by Eleanor Carwood Jones who took the selfie!
Photo by Eleanor Carwood Jones who took the selfie!

Last weekend was the Chesapeake Chapter Mystery Extravaganza where chapter members who’ve published a book or short story during the year get a couple of minutes to talk about their work. While I was up at the podium talking I spotted someone in the crowd and thought that guy looks familiar. I started racking my brain to figure out why (I think I kept talking while that was going on).

Then I realized it was the man from the Barnes and Noble panel. I had a chance to speak with him after the event was over. His eyes lit up and he said he’d written eight chapters since the panel. That he’d put off grading papers (he’s a high school psychology teacher) and doing things around the house to write. Seeing his enthusiasm warmed my heart.

Being in the middle is a wonderful place to be.

threebooksReaders: Who have you given a hand up to?

I’m giving away a set of all three Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries to one reader. Leave a comment for a chance to win.




88 Thoughts

  1. Isn’t it a great place to be, Sherry? I’m also getting the chance to give back now. I had critiqued a short story by a writer friend earlier in her career. I thought and still think it’s a great story. She submitted it several places and suffered rejections. I kept encouraging her and she kept working on it. And now it’s been accepted for the next Level Best Books anthology! I’m also asked to endorse others’ books, and am running for our SINC chapter presidency. I think you neglected to mention that you are the Chessie chapter prez!

  2. I love helping aspiring writers, Sherry! The one author who comes to mind and I like to think I may have helped is Mary Sutton AKA Liz Milliron. If you haven’t checked out her newest short story in the current issue of Mysterical-e, you really should!

  3. I love helping aspiring writers, too. I never would have gotten published, or have known even how to go about finding an agent, how to structure a mystery, etc. without Sisters in Crime and our local chapter. *waves to Annette and Mary* And I’m counting down the days to Malice. I can’t wait to see everyone!

    1. I agree — I still wouldn’t be published without the help of so many people! Malice feels like homecoming now — I can’t wait to see you!

  4. It looks to be the start of another rainy stretch on the Eastern Shore of Maryland as well. Just so long as the weather stays above freezing. I do NOT like shoveling that white precipitation.

  5. I’ve been wanting to read your Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries. Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. Sherry, as you know, I have Barbara to thank for connecting us. I love your books – they’re the perfect intersection of mysteries, small New England towns, military lifestyle, and garage/estate sales. Congratulations on your two year anniversary, and thank you for your warmth and enthusiasm!

  7. I loved reading your post, and about all the groups that have helped you along the way. I haven’t made it to a book conference yet (even though I really want to!) I have some close friends, but don’t ask for help often, so the list of people who have helped me is pretty small. The person who has helped me the most is my husband, by giving me encouragement when I do various projects. And he’s handy with computer issues, so he’s my go to when I need help with my website.

  8. So, so many mystery writers have offered help and support on my (extremely) long and unfinished road to publication. But the one I remember most was the first: Krista Davis. I sent her an email with a “newbie” question and she took the time to send me a lengthy, friendly reply. I’ll never forget her kindness.
    And I’m proud to say “I knew you when,” Sherry!

  9. I always try to help where I can. Whether it’s giving words of encouragement or taking the time to help change things for the better for someone. I think it’s important to help others succeed as we move through life. I think working as the family support head of my husbands National Guard unit taught me that we all need to work together and give each other support and a hand up when needed. Not only do we enrich others lives but in doing so enrich our own

    1. That is so great that you work with family support — it’s such a big part of military life! And it does enrich our lives to help others — well said!

  10. That’s great that you have been able to get help and help others. It makes the world go round. The only way I know how to help is to leave a review of a book saying if I liked it or not. I don’t know any authors personally. But I am trying to write a travel guide/journal of places I’ve been- it’s on hold for now. I can’t seem to make myself feel like being there if I’m not. I rather it come from what I truely felt at the time. Oneday… Thanks for the chance to win.

  11. Enjoy hearing your stories of how you all help each other. Makes me like Cozies even more.

  12. Thanks, Sherry, for all the encouragement you’ve given me. I think people who belong to SINC are less likely to give up because of all the cheerleaders who provide encouragement along the journey to publication.

  13. I have tried to be an encouragement to the young writers that have entered the Young Writer’s contest at our library. it was run by the Friends Group and several debated about entering. It is so exciting to see the look on their faces as they are honored by the Friends group. Perhaps one day they will be able to pass along the encouragement!

  14. I love this series! I’ve given a hand to my best friend who retired and needed help taking apart her in home studio.

  15. This series has been in my head as “intending to read” for some time. I get books from the library as I’m retired and on a fixed income. Unfortunately, they don’t always have the cozies I’m wanting to read. Sure would like to win this!

  16. Garage sales, estate sales, auctions are all in my favorite pass time activities. I love the movies that are based on these books and would love to have the books to compare. My fingers are crossed that I might be the lucky individual to win them. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. I obviously love them too! The movies are based on a different series by Suzie Weinert. Interestingly she also lives in Northern Virginia and was a military wife!

  17. YES! You’re so right—I was fortunate to meet many wonderful book people who took time from their lives to help me (I ask you, is there a crime writer out there Hank hasn’t helped somehow? She’s superwoman.), and I love being in the position to give back however I can—book blurbs, encouraging folks who haven’t finished that first manuscript or landed that first deal yet, or just listening and offering advice and connections. I love my friend Susan O’Brien to bits, and I’ll never forget the first Malice she came to, before her debut came out. We were chatting in the bar like we’d known each other forever (Malice will do that to people), and I told her if there was ever anything I could do for her, she shouldn’t hesitate to ask. She smiled and said “I noticed Laura Levine blurbed a book for you. I just love her work and am wondering if you could introduce me.” Of course I could. I did, and Laura wrote a lovely blurb for Susan’s debut novel. Later in the same conversation, she said something about admiring the work of my friend Maggie Barbieri, so we walked over to where Maggie was sitting at the bar, and now Maggie is Susan’s friend, too. 🙂

    My favorite thing about this “job” will always be the wonderful people. Great post, Sherry!

  18. Doesn’t it feel great to give a hand up to someone? When I was a supervisor in a large company I often got the chance to help someone out—not so much now that I’m retired and don’t have that much contact with people. I do love reading your super books. Thanks for the giveaway.

  19. Sherry,

    I love reading your books. I just can not put down my kindle once I start a story. Love that you write all about the places I see everyday. Your characters just come alive and I feel like I could know them. Please keep writing these great mysteries.

    Maria Cormier

  20. I have not read this series yet. It sounds intriguing. I feel terrible that I can’t think of an instance when I made a positive impact on someone’s life… =( I did take care of my grandma for the last ten yrs of her life and now for my grandfather. But other than the usual door holding, caring for a friend in a time of need… I don’t know. Well, I guess I have a new goal. If I’m not being the best me, I will try harder. I am at a loss. I’m glad there are people like you out there making a difference.

    1. Taking care of your grandparents is an amazing gift! Don’t be so hard on yourself — it sounds like you are a wonderful friend and relative. Honestly, just holding a door for someone is a big thing! I think you are doing way more than I am! I’m giving you a virtual pat on the back!

      1. Thank you for the pat on the back and for the books. This has made my week so much better. You have no idea how excited I am right now! I’ve been sick and dealing with the mishaps of a basement remodel so I haven’t been near my computer very much and didn’t see your email until today. We moved my aunt in with us and put in MIL apt a few months ago. One of the contractors damaged her brand new flooring in both the kitchen and bathroom… I recently quit working(NO JOB, for the first time in my life), so funds are limited. I’ve been fighting with them to get it fixed and it has caused me to be physically ill. On top of my grandfather’s dementia getting worse…2 little kids at home. Well, it’s been one of those years.
        Sorry for the lengthy story, but I want you to know the greatness of the gift I received in my inbox today. Thank you.

  21. Welcome to the middle! In this case, it sounds like a great place to be.

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again – one thing I love about the mystery community is how warm and generous all the members of it are. These people are friends as well as writers who want each other to succeed. That truly warms my heart.

  22. I have not read this series. Sounds great. I don’t enter contest any more. Never win. I always just get the books now.

  23. I have helped several people in my life…by giving free furniture to handing a bag of change to a person on the street. It feels good to make some difference in someone’s life.

  24. Happy Book-a-versary, Sherry! I treasure the friendships I’ve made in this journey, and those who’ve gone out of their way to help me–for no reason other than that they are good people.

  25. I had a Brother( who since passed ) suffering from several terrible cancers. He had many treatments. . I paid their house payment, bought them groceries weekly and put gas in their cars. I also loaned them much money. over 3 years to pay extensive doctor bills. Helping him was the right thing to do I felt although it wiped me out financially and left me with Little. I was happy to help them. I adore your books they bring joy!!!!

  26. Happy Bookiversary!! I just love to find authors from my home state of Virginia. I received a copy of Tagged for Death from a friend a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. It was a very nice change of pace with the garage sale idea. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and following Sarah on her adventures. Thanks for the giveaway!!

  27. I wish I could say that there was one person that I definitely have given a “hand up” to, but I don’t know that I have. I try to encourage people along the way, and over the years I have enjoyed volunteering, especially with children. I miss that. Helping people reach a better place in their life in definitely a worthwhile pursuit.

  28. I help out by giving presentations for the non profit organization that has trained both my service dogs, plus I volunteer my time helping to steward at trials at the dog training center where I have fun with my service dog. I have been trying to get up the gumption to try and write a cozy sort of novel because I enjoy them so.. but can’t get up the nerve.

    1. That is a wonderful way to help people! And here is my two cents — you have nothing to lose by writing. We all started with I wonder if I could write a book. Join Sisters in Crime and the Guppies — the great unpublished — an internet arm of Sisters in Crime. See if you have a local chapter. You’ll make friends at the very least! Keep me posted on what you do!

  29. Having worked for a social service type job for over 36 years, I have met a lot of people down on their luck and some, well, we will leave it at that. I know I have a made a difference in a few peoples lives and hope more then I realize/remember. Two that stand out are; I had a single mom (very backward and timid)with a new baby. She was assigned to work off her hours in my dept. .A clerical job opened open and I begged the supervisor to just give her a chance. He did and she has worked her way up to a better paying position. Another single mom with 2 little ones needed her car fixed in order to get to work and school. When I was walking her out of my office, after handing her the money to get her car fixed, she said “Can I please hug you? No one believes in me like you.” Yes, it is my job but, we never know when it might be us on “the other side of the desk” so I try to do it with a smile everyday and if I have to bend the rules, so be it. I just won’t break them. .

  30. I was just talking about a storytelling friend who works on the principle of helping others, and who thereby has become one of our most respected tellers. All the years of teaching were wonderful because of the opportunity to help others. One young man, whose life the counselor and I had had literally saved, speculated, “Maybe, not having kids of your own is why you have time for kids like me.” Another said I’d helped her see she could express herself in writing as she did in dance.
    Now retired, flailing about a bit for purpose, I’ve offered to do NaNo next year, to encourage a friend, but who knows what might come of my involvement?

    1. It sounds like you have helped a lot of people! There is also a February NaNo like thing! Wishing you all the best in whatever form your storytelling takes!

  31. I worked at the Fairfax, VA BN thinking I would be able to read all day! I was mistaken:). Love a good tag sale almost as much as a cozy.

  32. Congrats on the anniversary of “Tagged to Death”. I haven’t read this series yet, but I would really enjoy reading the Garage Sale Mysteries. Thanks for the chance. Happy holidays!

  33. This is a wonderful Article…I just dream about the day I can say that also…in the meantime any suggestions as to what to join …I am reading…writing…and studying…and thank you…also entering lol…

    1. Joining Sisters in Crime is a must! If there isn’t a local chapter near you there is an internet chapter called the Guppies — the great unpublished. It’s full of advice, they have online classes, manuscript exchanges — it’s amazing. I took some creative writing classes at a local community college (online). And if you can travel Crime Bake and Sleuthfest are two conferences that focus on writing. Keep us posted on how you do! And feel free to email me if you have questions!

  34. Well, having worked as a school librarian for many years, I like to think that I helped many students acquire a love for reading. That was always my goal, becaus, if you don”tell have readers, you don”t have writers. We help each other.

  35. This is a wonderful article I have had a gentleman he saw that i was disabled and just went out of his way to help me. That was just so nice and so i went over to his manager and told her what he did and she smiled and took him to the back he came back with a big smile. I always try to go out of my way to thank people that help me get in and out of doors. My husband always goes out of his way to help me and i know that it is hard being married to someone who has a disability so i always try to pick him up little things. Or i try to do as much as i can as he even comes into town every Wed when my friend whom i call my mom comes out and gets me and takes me out for dinner and then craft night i know it is tough to work then drive in and get me but I try to show him that i really appreciate all the extra he has to do for me . I would love to read the print books and also to review on a few sites and Happy Holidays I love the wicked Cozy Authors.

  36. I would love to read the Garage Sale mysteries. It will make my reading very enjoyable as going to garage sales is my favorite thing to do. Always like to find new authors to read.

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